China, as a country with a population of 1.3 billion people, is moving fast into the information age and features an immense variety of communication channels. It is characterized by a fast transformation from stiff government owned structures into new business models, from traditional press into new media and innovative forms of news making.
From state owned to new business models
At present, most of the traditional Chinese media outlets, such as newspapers, magazines and news agencies, are government owned and widely scattered. Many traditional media outlets of today feature web platforms and have to battle with other online media competitors for the attention of Chinese Netizens.
According to statistics from the General Administration of Press and Publication of China (GAPP), there were 1,937 newspapers in mainland China in 2009. Within this amount, influential national newspapers can be estimated to be less than 100. Some of the most important ones include Reference News, Global Times, Southern Weekly, China Daily and Economic Observer. Among the hundreds of different magazines, a few business-related ones stick out of the crowd. Their names are Caijing, Century Weekly, Global Entrepreneur and CBN Weekly.
Moreover, China features two news agencies, namely Xinhua News Agency and China News Service. They publish official government standpoints and are widely quoted by most of the mass media in print and online.
However, there is a clear trend towards new business models which involve private investors. Indeed more and more private firms like Alibaba and Tencent invest in new online media platforms, thus operating a shift towards more innovation in the Chinese media landscape. Traditional newspapers are slowly being replaced by news and information mobile applications like Toutiao.
Surging online media with strong focus on mobile
Although the World Wide Web was introduced rather late in China, it has become within an incredibly short time one of the major information sources in China. Currently, the most important online platforms are Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu, which combined, account for more than 70% of mobile usage.
Today, China has 721 million active Internet users. Microblog sites like Weibo are very popular among the young generation and even helped reshaping China’s information culture. While they are still relevant, they have since been surpassed by Wechat, the current most important mobile platform in China.
The trend towards mobile media is indeed very strong. Nowadays, there are 1.28bn mobile users in China. Chinese users are very open to mobile technology and very active in consuming and producing mobile content.
WeChat - China's most important social media platform
WeChat is a mobile text and voice messaging communication service developed by Tencent. It has multiple features including video chat, voice calling, QR code scanning, geolocation searching (Shake), blog posts (Moments)... Full mobile commerce capabilities are also offered inside the app.
Since its creation in 2011, WeChat has undeniably become one of the most important social media platform in China. Nowadays, 898 million people use WeChat and spend on average 66 minutes on the app per day.
Moreover, WeChat has also evolved into a very interesting working tool for all professionals. Indeed, according to the latest WeChat User Report by the Tencent Penguin Intelligence Survey Platform, 83% of users employ WeChat for business purposes. Besides, most new contacts are now work-related. The trend is still growing.
There is a constant struggle in China between the need of informational freedom in order to ensure further development and the Chinese government approach to control content and maintain informational hegemony. People living in China have to deal with blocked websites and filtered search results; many international communication platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter cannot be accessed in China.
However, there are ways around censorship in China and in places like the blogosphere, journalists use humor and political satire to criticize the Chinese government. Bloggers also spell out Chinese characters phonetically or substitute similar-sounding innocuous characters to circumvent censorship tools.
For more informations about censorship in China, please consult this page: Council on Foreign Relations.
Practical Tips for your PR-Work in China
Building and fostering a positive relationship with the media
Based on the company’s profile, products and services as well as characteristics, the selection of the key media will be the first step. It can either be print media, TV, radio and online media, or vertical media, mass media and urban media. The company will usually hire a PR officer to communicate with the media. If not, it has to rely on a PR company to set up its media pool and send out press releases, handle media inquiries, arrange interviews and book advertisements.
It takes a certain amount of time to build strong media relations from scratch. However, a personal friendship with the Chinese media will be greatly beneficial to the business. PR workers may spare a part of their time and budget into networking with journalists. Besides, official mutual visits between companies and the press are indispensable for future cooperations, which can take the form of written & oral interviews, press releases, etc.
Maintaining and improving your media relationship
In order to keep a good relationship with the Chinese media, an emotional connection and financial support is required. German media has evolved quite differently. German journalists will not mingle their personal relations with work, and are financially supported by their own employers solely for travel purposes. However the situation varies greatly in China.
What’s more, the established relationship with the media should be fortified regularly. Indeed, a broad and solid relationship will pave ways for tackling any future contingency, such as crisis management.
Pre-session communication with the media
If the company has important news or events to share and wishes to raise the public awareness, contacts with the media will be of the utmost importance. A clear timetable with well-prepared schedule to communicate with the media is necessary. If the company plans to host a press conference, it should leave half a month to invite the journalists and double check with the participation list one week before the conference day. A media kit in Chinese language shall be prepared in advance, with press release, personal resumes of the speakers and a PPT with the speeches inside. The media kit should be delivered during the media registration period.
Drafting a professional press release
A press release is deemed as the window to the company. This is why special attention should be paid to every detail. A prominent title will be useful, as well as a brief but explicit introduction.
Moreover, a short text and boilerplate at the bottom are a must. The whole article should not sound like advertisement, which could put off the media. New, objective information with valuable points are preferred. A bilingual content, e.g. in English and Chinese is widely accepted and convenient for publication. After delivering the press release, it is important to monitor the different media channels.
Location selection for your event
In China, the so-called “Face” is a very important parameter to take into account when considering the venue of a meeting or an event. If the budget is enough, choosing a fancy hotel rather than a simple meeting room is advised. Indeed the location directly reflects the financial situation of a company. Take-away gifts with an embedded company logo are also welcome among the guests.